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DCPS: Policy not followed before student incident

Friday - 2/3/2012, 1:34pm  ET

WASHINGTON - An adult aide at a Southeast elementary school did not follow system policy when assigning a student chaperone to a suspect who reportedly had inappropriate contact with the child, D.C. Public Schools officials said Friday.

The school system initially said the alleged incident on Feb. 1 at Ketcham Elementary School occurred after the suspect entered the building without authority and reportedly inappropriately touched a student. The student alerted a school official and DCPS "immediately swept the building and contacted authories," the school system said in a release.

But in an updated statement on the incident, DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz says the suspect -- described by D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier as a black male in his late 20s who was wearing all dark clothing -- spoke with an adult aide at the school about picking up a student. The aide claims to have recognized the suspect and then assigned a student escort to take him to a classroom, Salmanowitz says in a statement.

"This is not a DCPS policy and this incident has highlighted a need to take immediate short- and long-term action to improve procedures and protocols around school security," she says. "DCPS is currently reviewing school security policies at our schools in order to strengthen and improve the way we keep our schools safe, particularly around student arrival and dismissal when there are many parents and family members present on school grounds."

Salmanowitz says normal DCPS policy requires all visitors to check in with security -- who should be present at the school's entrance at all times -- and to sign in and present proper identification.

Another adult is required to cover the desk if security must leave. Salmanowitz' statement does not specify whether security was at the post or not when the suspect came into the building.

The updated version of events aligns closely with what Lanier told WTOP on "Ask the Chief" Thursday. Lanier said the suspect entered the school and asked to speak to someone, and a girl was assigned to escort the suspect around the building.

The suspect then touched the student inappropriately while they were walking in the school, the chief said.

Reports that a teacher assaulted a student are false, DCPS says.

School officials sent a notice to parents right after the incident happened, says Lanier. Salmanowitz says Ketcham's principal has met with parents, caregivers, teachers and staff "to review the school's response to Wednesday's incident and provide an overview of proposed recommendations to improve security at the school."

"DCPS plans to use the incident at Ketcham as an opportunity to discuss and reinforce proper procedures and protocols with all of our school leaders and staff," she says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)